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Sol Salbe: Israel's Abu Ghraib?

Israeli Army To Investigate 'Trophy Photos' Of Dead Palestinians

From Sol Salbe

[This story has even made it to sections of the Australian media. It is certainly caused a lot of feelings of revulsion in Israel. And it is indeed disgusting to find that Israeli soldiers used the body of a Palestinian whom THEY thought was innocent (and nicknamed accordingly.) as a trophy to take pictures with.

But with all due respect to the dead, (and both Jewish and Arab culture regard that very highly, it is the treatment of living Palestinians that should concern us far more.

That point was starkly made by Israeli academic Idan Landau in Ynet:

"Hundreds of reports during the Intifada years on the horrors committed by the IDF against live Palestinians haven't managed to scratch our collective elephant hide. They did not move the very people who are now so outraged by what uniform wearing animals committed upon dead Palestinians..

"Senior politicians, IDF commanders and newspaper columnists maintained a thundering silence while watching the wholesale killing of innocent unfortunate Palestinians who somehow end up in a forbidden zone or in the path of straying shell. But the minute the media gets hold of a photo or two of exposed Palestinian flesh, the same people beat their chest in disgust ('we've turned into animals.') And turn their heads in revulsion. Demolishing occupied people's houses, killing children on their way to school - that's OK. But if a Zionist soldier places a dead Palestinian's head on a pole - then our world collapses upon us."

(My translation, Hebrew original:,7340,L-3007438,00.html)

As usual the Christian Science Monitor does a good job in gathering the information. If you check some of the linked articles you'll find that they refer to Ynet as the electronic edition of Yediot Acharonot. That is not quite correct the two are run as independent entities occasionally competing with each other. - Sol Salbe]

Israel's Abu Ghraib?
Israeli Army to investigate 'trophy photos' of dead Palestinians.
by Tom Regan |

In an article that "came as a shock " to many Israelis, the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronot on Friday published an article that detailed allegations that Israeli soldiers had taken "trophy photos " and "abused" the bodies of dead Palestinians killed during army operations. The newspaper reported the practice has become widespread in the Israeli army, and happens in "almost in any place where clashes erupt between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants."

In one case, soldiers posed for pictures with the head of a suicide bomber. In another, a Palestinian who was killed because he was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time became a running joke for members of one unit.

Fire was opened at him from a heavy machinegun at military commands. After the soldiers reached the area they discovered a body without weapons or explosive belt. "He's an ordinary man who did not know where to go. The soldiers then tied the body to a military jeep that drove to the outpost, where cameras were taken out and pictures were taken, immortalizing the new 'mascot' of this combat unit. Since that time, soldiers call the body of this Palestinian 'Haffi'," which is a word derived from two Hebrew words meaning innocent.

The Independent reported Saturday that the Israeli Chief of Staff ordered an investigation into the incidents detailed by the newspaper. Although he denied that the problem was as widespread as reported by the paper, the BBC reports that Lt. Gen Moshe Ya'alon said the Israeli army's "ethical strength" was no less important than its "military strength.

'I ordered the military police to open an investigation and I intend to shed full light on this matter,' he told military radio. 'It is inconceivable that such things should happen in the ranks of Israel's army ... God forbid if we are compared and likened to those against whom we are fighting.'

But in an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, the editors point out that six months ago a group of demobilized Israeli soldiers had created an exhibit called "Breaking the Silence" where they presented their own testimony of severe brutality against Palestinian in Hebron. The chief of staff's response at that time, Ha'aretz says, was to send military police to confiscate the material. The editors also say that anyone who says "it can't happen here" is turning "a blind eye to what actually goes on in the territories."

The IDF [Israeli Defense Force] spokesperson, in response to Yedioth Ahronoth, spoke about the fact that soldiers are operating in a 'complex reality' - a phrase that betrays understanding for the soldiers' behavior. But this complex reality is in fact quite simple. For decades the IDF and the settlers have acted as they pleased in the territories, while the Palestinians' image as human beings with rights and with a face has gradually diminished. The process of dehumanization has reached a peak during the last four years, and certainly where there is no respect for human life, there can be no respect for the dead.

MSNBC reports Monday that the Israeli Army also formally charged an officer with repeatedly shooting a Palestinian schoolgirl after she had been wounded by other soldiers. The officer in question had been arrested three weeks ago after it was found that his report on the death of 13-year-old Iman Al Hams was false. Unidentified soldiers from the unit has also told the Israeli media about the incident.

Finally, United Press International reports that the army is also considering asking officers who live in "illegal West Bank settlements" to move. UPI reports the issue is a sensitive one because at some point the Israeli Army may be asked to remove settlers from some of the outposts the officers are now living in.

[The Independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is generously sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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